Choosing Naia: A Family's Journey

Mitchell Zuckoff
A powerful story, based on an award-winning series of articles, about a modern family and Down syndromeHalfway through their first pregnancy, Greg and Tierney Fairchild hear the news all expectant parents dread: their baby isn't perfect. A routine ultrasound reveals that the fetus Tierney carries has a major heart defect. Making matters worse, the nature of the defect leads doctors to suspect it might be a symptom of Down syndrome. With those events as its starting point, Choosing Naia examines the exploding world of prenatal information—and the emotional maelstrom that ensues from an unwanted test result—through the prism of the Fairchild family's experiences. Rapid advances in prenatal testing are enabling doctors to diagnose with great certainty a wide assortment of problems inside the womb. But that's where certainty ends. As they struggle with grief and confusion, would-be parents have only days or weeks to make choices—abortion, adoption, or continuing the pregnancy and keeping the child—whose reverberations are bound to alter the course of many lives. In the Fairchilds' case, those choices are further complicated by race. Having married across racial lines, Greg and Tierney can imagine the discrimination felt by the disabled. Ultimately, that understanding informs their decision about whether and how to parent a disabled child. Once the choice is made, they face a difficult delivery, where Tierney's vigilance literally saves her baby's life, and high-risk open-heart surgery before the baby they name Naia can celebrate her first birthday. After clearing those hurdles, the Fairchilds face new barriers they must tear down on behalf of their beloved child for all the days of their lives. Mitchell Zuckoff won the 2000 Distinguished Writing Award from the American Society of Newspaper Editors for his series "Choosing Naia," which also was honored by the National Down Syndrome Congress and the American Association on Mental Retardation.

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